We all come to Christ from different places. I kind of sum it down to two. Slavery, where we’ve spent our whole life trying to appease an angry God, please an impossible God, and earn our way to heaven; or freedom, where we lived like the devil and had no care for the consequences.
The Bible describes salvation as both freedom (Galatians 5) and slavery (Romans 6). What I love is the verse, 1 Corinthians 7:22, which says in essence, if you came to God from a background of slavery, consider yourself to be God’s freeman. And if you came to God free as a bird, consider yourself to be God’s slave. Paul is talking about real slaves and real freemen, but I imagine the principle carries over.
I came to God as a slave. I spent my whole life trying to earn His love and forgiveness and it took Him ten long years of debilitating depression to make me realize such a thing is impossible. My Old Self was a slave, very good at being a slave, and I followed every voice that urged me to act or refrain from acting—guilt, fear, religion, none of them Christ’s.
But when I came to Christ, something changed. Not just my eternal status, heaven-bound or bound for hell. But my life changed. So did the voice I listened to.
I discovered what it says in James 3:17, that the wisdom from God is pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. It was not the harsh, unreasonable, angry thing I had followed for so long.
But then I look at God’s Word, which insists that we are to present ourselves to God as slaves for obedience (Romans 6:12-18) and that the Christian life is an agony of trying hard to resist sin and follow Christ (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). And I realize that the more I see salvation this way, the more I fall prey to Old Self and the old voices.
I believe God’s Word presents salvation from these two radically different perspectives (freedom and slavery) because there are two radically different types of people who come to Christ. For someone who, like me, is used to slaving for a master who wants me dead and can never be satisfied, Jesus assures me I am already dead, and He is infinitely satisfied. For someone who, unlike me, began their life jumping into every sin with both feet and never feared hell until Jesus got ahold of them, the slavery that is salvation in Christ is the most incredible reality in the world, because they learn they are bought with a price and their life is not their own (1 Corinthians 6:20).
Whether from slavery or freedom, whether we see salvation as the incredible freedom that it is, or the marvelous slavery to a good Master that it also is, we are all aiming toward the same glorious reality: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).
If I have been crucified with Christ and He lives instead of me, all pressure is off, because in the freedom that is salvation, Someone Else has taken up the cause of living that perfect life I couldn’t. Someone Else’s character lives in me, controlling me and making me holy. And Someone Else will stand before God in my place, for salvation and reward. To be God’s freeman, I need only to remember this: I am dead, and Jesus lives.
If I have been crucified with Christ and He lives instead of me, then I must give no reign to the sinful flesh that wants to reassert control. My body belongs to Someone Else, bought with highest price. My words reflect Someone Else. My life glorifies Someone Else and I must never forget that my life is now lived by faith in that Someone Else, not according to my Old Self desires. To be God’s slave, I need only to remember this: I am dead, and Jesus lives.
The question for you is this: which perspective brings you to dead to sin, alive in Christ? Does seeing salvation as slavery bring you into humble submission to your Master, Jesus Christ, or does it leave you bound by the past, fearful of the future, living a list of rules, and failing to meet God’s standard? This is religion. And it fails. Does seeing salvation as freedom lead you to the glorious rejoicing of living under the grace you always dreamed of, doing the good things you’re finally released to do (Romans 7:14-25)? Or does it give you license to follow whatever sinful desire crosses your path with no concern for consequence?
I preach salvation as freedom. I will never deny the slavery that we are bound by in Christ or the reality of Jesus as our Lord and Master. This is paramount, truth as God teaches it, and I will never forget this. But I also do not need to be reminded of this.
I need to be reminded that when Christ sets you free, you’re absolutely, really free (John 8:36), that I have not been given a spirit of slavery but of adoption (Romans 8:15), that I am not just encouraged, but commanded, vigorously, to keep standing firm and do not allow that yoke of slavery to ever come upon me again (Galatians 5:1). I need to be reminded of grace.
If that isn’t you or for you, then I am not the author for you either. One of the greatest pastors I know preaches the slavery of salvation with such passion and eloquence that your love for God will abound and your sanctification will get on the fast track just by listening. I recommend his website instead. www.dtbm.org.
But if you, like me, come from slavery and bondage and darkness and need to see the light of freedom at the end of this tunnel, then I hope that my writing may be of encouragement to you. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe (Ephesians 1:18). Read on.